The Name of Jesus

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb” (Luke 2:21).  So tomorrow, the 8th day after Christmas, which falls on New Year’s Day, the church year commemorates the Circumcision and Name of Jesus.

With the baby’s circumcision, He took upon Himself the burden of the Law, which He fulfilled on our behalf.  And with His naming, His identity and purpose are made clear.  “Jesus” means “Yahweh saves.”  God saves.  His very name proclaims His divinity and His saving work.

[Read more…]

In  Sweden, Christmas means Donald Duck 

The_Spirit_of_43-Donald_Duck,_cropped_versionOdd Christmas customs department:  In Sweden, the country virtually shuts down on Christmas Eve at 3:00 p.m. so that everyone can watch a Donald Duck special from 1958.

The show consists of old cartoons from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, featuring Walt Disney’s duck, whom the Swedes call Kalle Anka.

After the jump, an excerpt and link to an account of the role Kalle Anka plays in the Swedish Christmas.

[Read more…]

Birth as the “moral fault line of our time”

Birth Born Newborn Baby Child Healthy Baby InfantChristmas is about birth, Kevin Williamson reminds us, which is what reminds us most of our physicality.  No wonder, he says, birth is also “the great political and moral fault line of our time.”

Consider all of the moral issues that have to do with birth, whether preventing it or negating it:  abortion, sex outside of marriage, pornography, today’s much vaunted fantasy of sex with robots.  Consider the political and ideological issues:  fears of overpopulation, health care, feminism, child poverty, education problems, child-raising controversies, embryonic stem cell research, reproductive engineering, adoption, divorce, marriage, family values.

Williamson says that our confused attitudes about birth tie into our confused attitudes about the body.  One can see in his examples the current gnostic revival, which denies the spiritual significance of the physical realm (as in being “spiritual but not religious”) and rejects the body (as in transgenderism and in the transhuman dream of downloading our minds into the internet so that we don’t need our bodies anymore).

Against the gnostic worldview, we have the Nativity–the conception, birth, and infancy of God Himself as a physical, embodied human being–and the Holy Family.
[Read more…]

What you do to your neighbor you do to Christ

Christian_Krohg_-_Mother_and_Child_-_Google_Art_ProjectIt still being Christmas–there are twelve days of it, remember–we can still contemplate the inexhaustible topic of God’s incarnation.  After the jump, read an excerpt from one of Luther’s Christmas sermons, which our pastor quoted in his Christmas Eve message.  The passage deals both with Christmas and vocation–that is, our calling to love and serve our neighbors in our various tasks and relationships.

To those who think that they would have shown kindness to the Christ child and His parents, unlike the residents of Bethlehem, Luther says, “Why don’t you do it now” by showing kindness to other needy children and their parents?

“What you do to your neighbor in need you do to the Lord Christ himself.”
[Read more…]

Happy Boxing Day!

StateLibQld_1_79331_Picnic_at_One_Tree_Hill,_Boxing_Day,_1908Today, the day after Christmas, is celebrated as “Boxing Day” in the United Kingdom and many of its Commonwealth nations, such as Australia.  We Americans need to adopt this holiday too!  After all, we too are former British colonies!

Accounts of the origin of the name vary, but it seems to have something to do with the servants getting a box of presents and other goodies on their traditional day off after a busy day on Christmas.

Traditionally, the day has been devoted to sporting events.  Horse racing and fox hunting in Great Britain.  For Australians, it is a huge day for cricket.  We Americans could use Boxing Day for our football games, so that they don’t conflict with Christmas.  The day also functions as a sort of second day of Christmas, in which the many activities of that holiday can overflow, something else we could use.

In this church year, Boxing Day is also known as St. Stephen’s Day, commemorating the first martyr.  Right after we remember Christ’s birth, we remember that there can be a cost for believing in Him. [Read more…]

“The light shines in the darkness”

How fitting that we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ around the time of the Winter Solstice, when the day is at its shortest and the night is at its longest.  At this darkest time of the year, we celebrate Christ’s coming.  Just as He comes at the darkest points of our lives.  (This is also why lights at night are key Christmas symbols.)  As St. John says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

After the jump, the Christmas story according to the Gospel of John.   Mark begins with the start of Christ’s ministry.  Matthew begins with His birth to Mary and Joseph.  Luke begins with His conception by the Virgin Mary.  John begins where Genesis begins, “In the beginning.”

christmas-146746_640

 

[Read more…]